Friday, March 11, 2011

Intention Should Count for Something

As an avid hockey fan, it was hard to avoid the tumult that came from the hit Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins put on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.  As expected, the entire nation of Canada is in an uproar.  The commissioner of the NHL has not seen fit to suspend Chara for literally sending someone off on a stretcher.  Chara has no history of ever being a dirty player, and that shot was very much a dirty play.  Chara checked Pacioretty into a section of the player benches that had an unusual opening and Pacioretty hit the opening and then the ice extremely hard.  He lay motionless on the ice for some time.  He was seriously injured, but the real question is, did Chara do it with the intent to injure, or just to clear space on the ice?

If you watch the replay, I think it looks like a regular hockey move.  Players get checked into the boards all the time.  But in this instance, a sound-bite from Carey Price of the Canadiens sticks with me.  He alluded to hockey players, at that level, knowing exactly where they are on the ice at all times.  It seems like an innocuous comment, but thinking of the book ‘The Tipping Point,’ it sounds reasonable.  In that book, the assertion is that to be an expert, as all professional hockey players can be considered, you have to put in about 10,000 hours worth of time in your respective craft.  Is it unreasonable to say that Chara has done that?  I have no doubt that he’s got well over that amount.  If that is the case, then Price’s comment holds a lot of weight.

If Chara is an expert hockey player, knowing his way around the ice, then there really are only two eventualities to come to: Chara knew what he was doing, and intended to injure Pacioretty or Chara knew what he was doing, but didn’t accurately estimate all the variables to his action.

I know most would like to think the former is true, but I am more prone to think the latter is true.  As a die-hard Washington Capitals fan, I am not a Boston Bruins fan, but less so than a Montreal fan, as they bounced us from the playoffs last year.  However, Chara has no history of dirty hits, and even the dirties players (with a few exceptions) would do something quite like what Chara did.

I honestly chock it up to thoughtlessness.  He knew where he was, he knew what he was doing, he just wasn’t thinking.  That is how serious accidents happen in real life, why not in hockey.  Chara is an unfortunate example of someone who has, for the most part, been a good example of a decent hockey player. 

What happened was an accident, it really was.  Air Canada threatening to pull support for the NHL is childish.  Do two wrongs make one right?  I’m pretty sure that math doesn’t work.  Chara is apologetic, though it only seems slightly.  To me, it almost seems like he doesn’t fully realise what has happened and what he’s done.  I think he’s going through his own mental trauma as Pacioretty is going through a more physical one.  Watching the scene on the ice that day was really jarring.  One can only hope that in the future, Chara will be more aware and the NHL will be less lenient.  While Chara’s hit may not have deserved a stiffer punishment, it probably would have served all parties involved better.

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